Embracing the serpent: Education for ecosophy and aesthetic appreciation

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review

Abstract / Description of output

This chapter draws upon Arne Naess and Ronald Hepburn to think through some limitations of approaching environment and sustainability education via knowledge from science and technology alone. Naess thought that ecologists instinctively understood what many others struggle to – that the equal right to live and blossom is a normative value that should be granted to all living things and not just humans. Nonetheless, Naess held that ecology is a limited science. It is limited because scientific methods can generate descriptive facts about the world but not values to guide action in the world. For the formation of personal ecological values that guide action, or what Naess calls an “ecosophy”, systematic philosophical thinking about self-realisation and nature is needed. Those who develop their own “ecosophies” recognise that human and non-human life are intrinsically interconnected and that, as such, all of life suffers when humans think and act as if they are not interconnected. Hepburn also saw serious limits to scientific knowledge. For Hepburn, scientific method requires the stripping away of all the embodied experiences that make people human. This chapter argues that from Hepburn and Naess we can learn that a balanced education is not confined to inculcating scientific knowledge or skills. Instead it also involves the exploration of ecological values as well as serious aesthetic appreciation. The chapter concludes by discussing how Ciro Guerra’s film Embrace of the serpent might be educational. It is claimed that the film offers viewers an opportunity to think about human–environment relations in alternative and more ecophilosophically fruitful and aesthetically serious ways. Embrace of the serpent illustrates how and why arts and especially film-based educational interventions can come to matter.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationWhy Science and Art Creativities Matter
Subtitle of host publication(Re-)Configurings for Future-making Education
EditorsLaura Colucci-Gray, Pamela Burnard
ISBN (Electronic)9789004421585
ISBN (Print)9789004421639 , 9789004396111
Publication statusPublished - 19 Dec 2019

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • aesthetic appreciation
  • nature
  • Naess
  • Hepburn
  • film education
  • Embrace of the serpent
  • ecosophy
  • art


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